we used to flog books; now we flog bloggers

In the culture I grew up alongside (I’m only half-English, so only half-inside; in fact, probably even less than half: my wife and children are Spanish, so there’s a third culture to love), there was always a surfeit of content to be bought and read.

We called them books when I grew up: books, magazines (remember magazines?  In particular, the specialist ones; the hobbyist ones; the clever ones; the crazy and wild …); and then there were newspapers too – especially the Sunday newspapers.

What a luxury, spread out like a picnic blanket in a meadow of grand grace – but in this case the meadow happened to be one’s living-room, and you’d find yourself sitting on as much of the sofa as you could grab.

All the different sections that overcame one’s resolve to finish before lunch.

Many a roast burnt due to the Observer, incompletely read.

Many a lunch late because the next section, the one kept lovingly to the last, just had to be read before the potatoes could be rescued.

Clive James.  Katherine Whitehorn.  Am I right in remembering these names?

Not any more, of course; now, it’s all “content”.  Streamed, licensed, electronic, virtual … always at one’s fingertips, never in one’s hands; no longer piling up forgotten, though not unloved, on a dusty bottom shelf or in those shabby but never discarded cardboard boxes we’d nick from the local super.

Then I moved to Spain, and goodness me – how I loved the quioscos: the often sizeable brown huts of aluminium construction; dotted around the city streets with their splaying-out doors; laden with editorial product as far as the eye could see.

And the eye could see.

That was the real grandness of it all.

Last time I was in Spain, so many of them shut down, for sale, no longer displaying their wares; no longer pushing those eternal book collections.

So sad it was, for me anyway.  A passing of an age.

Two countries, that was, where I lived and came to love the whole idea and industry of flogging books.

Nowadays, some societies prefer – instead – to flog bloggers.

I’m not sure that this instinct in certain mediated ways – the instinct to instil fear into communicators at all levels and of all skills, I mean – won’t become more common.

Thankfully, the British state doesn’t sanction the use of corporal punishment against its subjects.  I sincerely hope it won’t in the future either.

But what I can say – without fear of equivocating a reality that’s getting more and more complex to triangulate as time goes by – runs … well … as follows: I much preferred the time when what made the news was publishers flogging books.

And those are the times – together – we must get back to.

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